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Furious members of the National Assembly’s police committee have accused the SAPS of not taking domestic violence seriously after a damning report on police compliance with the Domestic Violence Act.
The report, presented by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), showed continued low compliance of police members with the 1998 act.
Committee members heard that out of 104 cases of non-compliance investigated by the Ipid between January last year and March this year, 75 still required a response from the SAPS.
Of the 263 stations visited during this reporting period, only 39 were fully compliant with the act, while the Ipid gave no indication that any action was being taken against the defaulting SAPS members.
A total of 30 cases from the January to June period last year were, at the time of the report, still outstanding, while 45 cases between July last year and March this year were also still outstanding.
The types of police non-compliance addressed in the report included failure to arrest an abuser if an offence of violence had been committed; failure to arrest the alleged transgressor where a warrant had been issued; failure to dispatch a police vehicle to a scene of domestic violence; failure to inform domestic violence victims of their options; failure to inform the victim on where and how to access counselling services; and, failure to inform the victim on where and how to obtain a protection order.
Between January last year and March this year, 35 percent of the cases related to a failure of SAPS members to arrest an abuser in an offence of violence, while 17 percent related to a failure to arrest the alleged transgressor where a warrant of arrest had been issued.
The Ipid, which replaced the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) and was established on April 1 after legislation was enacted to give it more powers, is tasked with ensuring independent oversight over the SAPS and the municipal police services.
From April 1, the function of dealing with the Domestic Violence Act was handed over to the police secretariat.
African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe, a member of the committee, described the presentation as “disappointing and shocking”.
“Do the SAPS wilfully disregard their functions and respect for the Ipid? It looks like they have no regard for the Ipid,” he said.
DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard described the presentation as ”depressing”.
“I am beyond disappointed with what we are hearing today,” she said.
“In the majority of domestic violence cases, the SAPS simply hasn’t bothered to comply with the Domestic Violence Act. Clearly, the SAPS is treating the Ipid with the same contempt with which it treated the unit in its former incarnation as the ICD, when it virtually ignored every ‘recommendation’ given.
“This seems like wilful non-compliance by SAPS members. We hear the stories of women being beaten up by their husband or partner and then being told to go home, with no register given to them to sign.”
Kohler Barnard joined Cope MP Mluleki George and others in criticising the Ipid for its weak oversight.
“We are not told that any action was taken to make police comply. Are oversight activities yielding any results?… Your reports don’t give us any,” George said.
“You give us reports saying that they are failing to comply, but you don’t say what action is taken. Are you just spending government funds going around on ‘jolling’ trips on these oversight activities?”
George added: “This presentation clearly indicates that police sometimes regard the directorate as non-existent, and I don’t blame them.”
MPs voiced serious concern that the Ipid was an ineffective organisation which lacked understanding of its obligation to hold SAPS members to account.
They called on the police secretariat to put an efficient plan in place to hold the police to account.
Acting committee chairwoman Annelize van Wyk (ANC) said she was very unhappy, both with the quality of the Ipid reports and the SAPS’s non-compliance levels.
“We have been begging the old ICD to… come here and tell us what the problems are. These reports have failed to address the problems. This act was passed in 1998” she added.